Ain't What It Used to Be: 5 Reasons Why Chick-fil-A Is Everything That's Wrong with Today's NYC

Recently Chick-fil-A opened their first New York City restaurant. Located one measly block away from the our offices, we of course had to try it out. 

So, nearly $50 in fried chicken sandwich goodness later, we were pretty satisfied. Matter of fact, we all thought it was damned tasty. Of course, that's where our unanimous agreement ended. 

Now if there's one thing consistently true about New Yorkers and NYC, it's that we're perpetually in a state of flux and unhappy about it. People, native or not-- and regardless of what percentage of the City's population is native New Yorkers at this moment in time --change.

Sure, there are some ineffable qualities of a New Yorker, but we, like all humans, grow and age and collect experience. One of the most reliable NYC experiences is the "This Place Ain't What It Used to Be" sentiment, and no matter how you look at it, it will always ring true.

But there is kind of a systematic assault on the fabric of NYC. People call it "gentrification." Yes, it does basically amount to more affluent individuals or businesses filling space previously occupied by long term, usually native, usually lower-income residents.

But it's way more than just a southern chicken franchise opening near Herald Square. Neighborhoods all across the City have felt the effects of gentrification enclaves warping the area's character. But Chick-fil-A is a good example of the type of businesses with which many New Yorkers take issue.

Now, spots that exist clearly as a result of the gentrification of an area, we're calling g-spots. Not everybody knows they're there, they may be hard to find, and you might feel guilty about enjoying what they have to offer.

A crass analogy? Probably, but not nearly as offensive as the underlying consequences gentrified chicken may have on your hood. Gentrification affects much more than just eateries, but with Chick-fil-A being, you know, Chick-fil-A, let's examine how it works based around restaurants/bars.

1. An over-excitement about novelty

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In a fully rational world, people would only go to restaurants because the food is extra ordinary. But in 2015 in NYC, people go places and do things simply for the novelty factor. It's ironic, it's throwback, it's whatever.

So of course when a controversial franchise from outside NYC opens, people flip out because it's something we didn't have yesterday. 


There's also the offensive-appeal, a selfie in front of Chick-fil-A sends the message of "IDGAF about your feelings" as much as it does "I love tasty chicken." 

Just as importantly though, transplants love this stuff. 

Many of them have enough cash to spend their way home without going anywhere, meaning, the ways they spend their money has a lot to do with what businesses are attracted to a given area, which, as you can see elsewhere, cascades into a tumult of useless garbage. 

2. Drives rent up

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NYC restauranteurs have to operate under the assumption that if they are successful, they will be priced out of their own neighborhood before too long. And it's true. The atmosphere a successful restaurant ushers into a neighborhood has the potential to change that neighborhood in big ways.

The fact is that if one "trendy hotspot" opens and does consistently well, more will follow in the vicinity. If landlords realize they can jack up the rent to price out tenants in order to attract new tenants who will pay higher rates, then it's basically all over for whoever lived/did business in that hood.

Case in point: we've seen 75 bodegas close this year alone. Why? Their rents keep skyrocketing. This bodega is even offering their front window on AirBnB to make the extra money they'll need to handle their upcoming rent hike. It's going for $329/night.


And as we've seen, no institution is safe regardless of location. We lost F.A.O. Schwartz (for the time being) this year because of the high rent. Yes, Midtown isn't safe. 

Now, Is there a direct correlation between a fast food chicken spot and high rents? No, not a direct one. There's a tangential association, and that might be more dangerous in that the less discernible the pattern is, the more "out of nowhere" the consequences hit you.  


3. Changes business landscape

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When establishments leave, those who fill the empty spaces have the leverage to potentially direct the neighborhood's ambiance down one road or another. The road most taken these days is not the "road less traveled," but rather the polar opposite.

New Yorkers can smell inauthenticity from across town. If a g-spot restaurant or bar opens and it reeks of pandering to undesirable idiots with lots of money, chances are the real New Yorkers will avoid it like the plague.

But that won't stop the hoards of cash wielding, Fireball shot drinking, late-on-the-ironic-mustache trend fools from Yelping the place to high heaven.


If gone unchecked, eventually what you get is a whole neighborhood full of businesses just like the one that spawned the "renaissance" of the area. Businesses that aren't for the people who live near them.

That's often a cornerstone of the desirability/novelty/irony factor that's so strong with NYC's younger adults: having to go just a little bit out of your way to feel like you're in a neighborhood that's "on the upswing."

That "upswing" is the kiss of death for everybody, especially the traditional Mom & Pop shops everyone loves. 

4. Prices residents out of their homes

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After the community's businesses fall prey to g-spots, the living spaces are next. The same dynamic that applies to commercial space applies to residential.

People are less inclined to get upset about businesses changing, but once people have to move out of their home neighborhoods, all bets are off and New Yorkers are pissed.

But that doesn't stop the "development" of the neighborhood. Developers don't have the reputation of caring deeply about the communities they "develop." The incentive of massive profits is infinitely more powerful than conserving a neighborhood atmosphere.

5. You get a wholly different neighborhood

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Different businesses arrive, usually more expensive. Developments bulldoze the residences, making way for more luxurious properties. Once the businesses and residences have been gutted and the community population relocated, the area can be marketed as a new hotspot, a desirable area, "on the upswing."

After not too long, the businesses attracted to newly available commercial space and the residents attracted to newly refurbished living quarters essentially change the nature of the neighborhood entirely.

It's no longer the hood you played in when you visited grandma on Sundays. Now it's home to a gluten free bakery, a daycare center that keeps your child paired with your dog so they can keep bonding without you, and what else, an artisanal mayo shop.

The people who live there aren't your childhood neighbors. They're between 28-34, are really into sustainability, New Balance sneakers with casual denim-wear, kale, and probably how they live an "off-the-grid-urban" lifestyle, whatever the hell that means.


Soon enough, this spins off from the wholesome, traditional gentrification we all know and love into a darker, whitewashed hell scape of generification where you don't recognize anything as it was only five years ago. 

Soon enough, transplants win out and NYC suddenly turns into everything they left behind them, the chains, the drive-thrus, the noxious, suffocating suburbia, stifling and deadly.

Sure, the fast food chicken is just that: fast food. There's nothing to say that a fast food restaurant is a crippling addition to an already clustercussed area rife with chains. But it's enough to fret over for the long term because at what point do we stop adding this muck and grime to the streets of NYC?

Check out 5 Pros & Cons of Gentrification

[Feature Image Courtesy Newsday]

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